Recent Threats Put Renewed Focus on Stadium Security

By Matt Swenson, January 6, 2016

With French President Francois Hollande in the stands for a soccer match at Stade de France in November 2015, a security guard prevented further tragedy in Paris by stopping a suicide bomber from entering the stadium. In the short time since, several threats to other sporting events have been reported—including at multiple European soccer matches and WWE’s Survivor Series in Atlanta—all of which, fortunately, have turned out to be false alarms.

Nevertheless, stadium security is now top of mind for the general public as Americans get ready to watch Monday’s College Football Playoff National Championship outside of Phoenix, arguably the biggest game since the French attacks. While there is renewed focus on the issue, the Glendale, Arizona, police department—leading the security protocol—has been on the case for nearly a year.

“Planning for the CFP National Championship game began immediately following Super Bowl XLIX,” says Sgt. David Vidaure, the department’s public information officer.

The unit should be as prepared as any in this country. Not only did it stand guard at last year’s Super Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium, the venue for Monday’s matchup between Clemson and Alabama, it has experience with the Fiesta Bowl, previous BCS games and regular-season NFL games.

Vidaure says there’s been a more visible law enforcement presence around the stadium, including K-9 units and SWAT forces. Other preparation has gone unnoticed by design, adds the officer.

“What the public has not been able to detect are the number of plain clothes and undercover assets we have in place,” he says.

The French attacks will certainly put more scrutiny on security, but much of the safeguards in place are similar to NFL games. Bag buffer zones and walk-through magnetometers will be among the checks fans will face before reaching their seats. Other measures are not being made public for security reasons, but officials say they will be ready.

“We have worked diligently over the years to exceed safety standards and have worked closely with local, state and federal authorities to adhere to best practices in the field,” says Tom Sadler, president and CEO of the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority.

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